Tuesday, July 11, 2023

The Afterparty Continues to Explore Mayhem and Mystery in Season Two [Contributor: Jenn]

Image credit: Apple TV+

The first season of Apple TV+’s murder mystery, genre-homaging comedy was a huge success for an array of reasons. It had a stellar ensemble cast, tight comedic writing, and enough twists and clues for viewers to try and solve along the way. While, admittedly, the second season of the series doesn’t quite reach the highest highs of season one, The Afterparty still remains one of the most creative storytelling endeavors on television right now.

The plot of season two is as follows: Aniq (Sam Richardson) and Zoë (Zoë Chao) are now together after the events of the first season, and they’re en route to Zoë’s sister Grace’s wedding. Aniq is nervous to be meeting Zoë’s entire family — and the weekend goes awry when Grace (Poppy Liu) wakes up next to her new husband Edgar (Zach Woods), only to discover that he’s dead. A murder mystery kicks into high gear with the bride’s family, the groom’s mother and sister, and guests all becoming suspects in Edgar’s death.

As I mentioned earlier, The Afterparty’s second season almost works as well as the first one. But as I was contemplating it, I think one of the reasons season two doesn’t work as well for me is that Aniq and Zoë don’t spend time together on screen the way that Aniq and Yasper (Ben Schwartz) did in season one. The two characters actually split up to do their own investigations once Danner (Tiffany Haddish) arrives on the scene. 

And while Sam Richardson and Zoë Chao shine individually in their stories (they are both just so comedically talented), it’s slightly disappointing that we don’t get more of them paired up and solving the crime together. This does, however, lend to more scenes with Zoë and Grace together, which I enjoyed.

Aniq and Zoë, in addition to being separated, go through a little bit of a rough patch in this season — which is understandable since Aniq quickly deduces that there’s a high probability one of Zoë’s family members is the murderer. She, of course, does not want to believe that anyone in her family is capable of murder. And while she still stands by them throughout the show, Zoë quickly learns that she doesn’t know her family as well as she thought she did... especially her sister. 

Apart from that tiny qualm of Aniq and Zoë’s separation, I enjoyed the majority of the first nine episodes — critics didn’t get the finale to screen — of The Afterparty’s second season, and without giving away spoilers, here’s why:


Obviously one of the biggest and most unique draws of The Afterparty is that each character shares about what happened leading up to the murder through a specific storytelling lens. Last year we had an animated episode, a musical episode, a rom-com, and so many other clever genres to play around with. This season is no different! Aniq gets a sequel to his romantic comedy (which is the only “recycled” genre, though this one felt more like it was focused on sequels not necessarily rom-coms themselves). Then there’s a Pride & Prejudice-style episode that details how Grace met Edgar, a film noir homage, a nod to heist films, and more. Each genre is filled with comedy, drama, romance, and mystery. The weakest of the bunch, to me, is Danner’s standalone episode simply because it felt too long and unnecessary. There is a Wes Anderson homage episode focusing on Edgar’s sister Hannah (Anna Konkle) that would have probably played better had there not been a TikTok viral trend a few months ago with users creating their own Wes Anderson-style homages.

I think my favorite genre this year is one that revolves around social media video storytelling. It was a creative use of a genre — Aniq and Danner watch TikTok/Instagram videos that Zoë’s father Feng (Ken Jeong) provides courtesy of the wedding videographer. This genre works specifically well because it feels relevant to a murder mystery where the characters and audience are actually seeing evidence and piecing it together alongside everyone else.


As I mentioned earlier, most of the ensemble characters are new to The Afterparty universe, and each character has specific comedic beats. Ken Jeong shines in his comedic timing and beats as the father of the bride. Anna Konkle’s specific comedic choices as a quirky and odd, but inevitably hopeless romantic play very well with the Wes Anderson genre. No one else but her could have made the concept work as well. Edgar, too, is supposed to be socially awkward and Zach Woods has fun playing that up — especially when he’s got a lizard on his shoulder almost the entire time we see him. But in the course of the season, you’ll begin to watch a different, darker side of Edgar emerge, and Woods does an incredible job incorporating his character’s blunt, emotionally-detached line delivery into dramatic moments and scenes.

But as much as other critics loved Travis (Paul Walter Hauser) and his detective film noir homage, I admit that I found Travis — a wannabe sleuth who is really just a Reddit conspiracy theorist — the least funny of the new characters in the ensemble. The series uses pratfalls and clumsiness too much with his character, to the point where it becomes cringeworthy and not funny. Seriously, so much of his comedy is centered on the idea that he’s either obnoxious, oblivious, or knocking things over/falling over.

A shining star of the ensemble, however, is Ulysses — played by the consistently funny and vastly underrated John Cho. (Justice for ABC’s Selfie by the way.) He swoops in with a grand, romantic, Western, dance-centric flashback story and is the kind of charming, effortlessly funny character the series really benefits from. It is truly a standout episode that manages to be funny and heartbreaking. John Cho deserves to be in way more things! Give him all the things!

Ultimately the chemistry and tension between the ensemble cast members is what initially sold The Afterparty to viewers and it’s what sells this season too.


The first thing I felt when I finished episode nine was frustration that I couldn’t watch the finale. What The Afterparty did in season one, it continues to do well in season two: leave every episode with a little cliffhanger, making you question what you know about the previous episode’s character as you head into another character’s story. (There is also just an unexpected moment in episode five that made me gasp but I won’t say more than that!)

If season one’s twist of a finale taught you anything, it’s to pay attention to little clues as you watch the show. I began to take some notes of details in rooms and in characters’ stories to see if I could piece together the murder. By the end of episode nine, it seems like things are wrapping up... until they’re absolutely not. I have a few ideas about what could happen but genuinely am excited to see how the series ties up the mystery — and where that leaves Aniq and Zoë!

The first two episodes of The Afterparty season two are now streaming on Apple TV+ with new episodes dropping weekly.


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